English Harmony Highlights of August 2011

Personally for me the whole month of August just flew by because of a single reason – I was MAD busy at work! The moment I would come in and the moment I finished work in the evening felt like just a couple of hours apart because of the massive workload! It’s a good complaint though, considering the way things are at the moment on the jobs front in Ireland, and I hope that whatever your personal circumstances are, you’ve managed to keep your job and hopefully you’re getting plenty of spoken English practice in it! All right, I think I just veered off topic so let’s cut the rant and get down to discussing this month's blog posts! Yes, despite being extremely busy and tired I still managed to find enough time to write quite a few articles, and if you haven’t got round to reading them – now is the perfect time to invest a couple minutes of your time into reading some stuff about improving English fluency. The main blogging topic this month was English collocations, and I wrote three articles dedicated to this very important aspect of English fluency. I started off with a blog post called Unnatural English Collocations and Wrong Mental Associations. It’s probably the most important article in the whole month of August because it sheds light on issues like saying the wrong English word despite being aware of what the correct word is. It’s all about having created wrong associations between English and also your native language’s words, so it’s extremely important for you to know what to avoid in order to stop creating unnatural English collocations in your mind! (more…)

4 Reasons Why Any Foreign English Speaker Should Read English Fiction

My blog and also the whole English Harmony project are all about spoken English fluency and how to overcome related confidence issues. Reading English fiction most of the time, as I’ve pointed out numerous times throughout my blog posts, won’t help you improve your spoken English fluency and you still need to spend a considerable amount of time speaking English with other people in order to do that. Nonetheless, reading English fiction will definitely help you as a foreign English speaker. After all - who else can judge the usefulness of this pastime other than me - Robby, who reads whenever there’s free time available? At launch breaks at work, in bed before sleep, while waiting on appointments … sitting at an open window on a sunny Sunday morning and drinking coffee – all those and many more occasions are perfect for forgetting yourself while being immersed in events depicted by some English writer. (more…)

5 Ways of Learning Natural English Collocations and Creating Useful Vocabulary Associations

I’ve been blogging extensively about creating wrong associations in your mind between English words and also English vocabulary and your native language. This time let’s look at how to create natural collocations so that you wouldn’t blame me for focusing only on the negative! Learning new English vocabulary in context is very important because if you come to think of it, the smallest language unit is a phrase as opposed to a word. Learning separate words is so old-school; if you really want to be fluent you need to feel instinctively how things are said in English naturally and in what context certain words are used. If you translate directly from your native language when speaking in English, most of the unique characteristics of the English language will be lost on you – starting with English idioms and ending with specific terms – and that’s why contextual English learning is so important. (more…)

Information Overload: How To Stop Thinking TOO MUCH When Speaking English!

Is Google Any Good For Improving Your Spoken English?

Yes, it is! But in this blog post I'm not going to discuss the cool Google speech recognition functionality or some similar tool (I'm probably going to look at it in one of my future blog posts though). By saying that you can use Online Search Engines to improve your spoken English I'm referring to Google, Yahoo and other Online Search Engine search suggestions - simple as that :!: Performing search on certain words and search terms allows you to find out plenty of useful information about naturally occurring English word combinations, and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m always emphasizing the importance of memorizing words that go together in natural spoken English - collocations, idioms, phrasal verbs. Why? Simply because it allows you to speak fluently; as you say the first word, the next ones are triggered automatically because your brain and mouth have been trained to pronounce certain words together :!: So if you’re interested in intricacies of Google, Yahoo or Bing search suggestions that allow you to learn patterns of real life English – keep reading this article and you’ll probably be in for a nice surprise on how instrumental Search Engines can be to a foreign English speaker! (more…)

The Single Biggest Culprit Causing Foreigners’ Speech Anxiety

Unnatural Collocations and Wrong Mental Associations

I've highlighted the importance of learning English collocations in many of my previous blog posts; this time let’s look at what happens if you create wrong associations in your mind between words in English as well as in your own language. If it doesn’t sound believable, just think of such quite a realistic situation. An ESL student is learning how to conjugate the verb ‘to be’ so he’s reciting the string of words “I am, you are, he, she, it is, we are, you are, they are…” in order to memorize the personal pronouns with the respective form of the verb ‘to be’. Now, when the student has repeated the aforementioned sequence of words for a good number of times, it imprints itself into his mind, and the desired effect has been achieved. Of course, for those words to stick with the student permanently, he needs to go back to them the next day, and then after a few more days – that’s the basic principle of spaced repetition. Anyway, the job is done, and the English student is now capable of using the verb ‘to be’ in real life conversations, isn’t that right? All right, fair enough! But now let’s try to remember how many times you’ve heard a foreign English speaker mix up the two personal pronouns – ‘he’ and ‘she’ – when speaking? I would say it happens quite often, and by the way – haven’t you made the same mistake at some stage during a quick chat in English? I have, and I have my own theory on why it happens. It’s all because wrong association has been created between the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ when repeating the words “… he, she, it is…” :!: You’re training your mouth to pronounce those two words together in one phrase and later on even years after you were just a beginner English learner, you may catch yourself saying things like “You know, I haven’t seen her before. He… sorry, she… hmm… she is Jennifer’s sister and is going to work here for the next half year while Jen is away.” Had there been a strong separate connection created between words ‘she is and ‘he is’ followed by a contextual example or an abstract image of a male and female, you wouldn’t be making such mistakes. Your subconscious mind would be used to describing activities where females are involved as “she is…”, so I’ll say it once again – it’s all about unnatural collocations, and I have loads of advice in store for you on how to avoid creating wrong associations in your mind! Did it pique your interest? Then read on! (more…)